September 15th, 2010 | Darrell Corriveau
As a result of a convoluted set of circumstances, the iconic Canadian beer brand Labatt’s Blue (for sale in the U.S.) will be produced by beer giant and main competitor Molson-Coors. Companies often produce goods for other companies to package and brand as their own, but it is unusual for two longstanding archrivals in the same consumer space to have agreed to an arrangement like this.
Through my formative beer drinking years (long since past) a person usually drank one or the other. You were either a Labatt’s Blue person or a Molson Canadian person. Once the line was drawn, you never crossed to the other side. The taste of the product didn’t seem to matter. People became loyal brand disciples through the influence of friends, older family members and of course the overwhelming force of giant advertising campaigns and brand awareness schemes.
Differentiating these brands on the basis of taste and quality is pointless. Already very similar, now they are even being produced in the same factories. The effect of this is to further reduce these brands to generic commodity status. The only difference seems to be that they employ slightly different marketing strategies.
Maybe the nature of the product is that traits such as uniqueness and authenticity don’t matter, but those Blue and Canadian loyalists are already crossing to other sides entirely. The competition from foreign imports, micro-brews and ironically, large American brands that are often brewed here by Molson or Labatt’s, will likely contribute to declining market share. In the face of this, advertising and brand building is more essential than ever. The question is, will people buy it anymore?